A Journey Into The Garage Rock Underworld
Garage rock is the sludge, the primordial ooze of pop culture.
The sound of kids in American suburbs trying to emulate the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and countless R&B riffs, it went on to become an international movement, one that lingers and stirs to this present day.
A harbinger of the punk rock explosion, the two teenage movements have long had a relationship based on mutual appreciation.
It's no surprise, then, that Damned founder and punk hero Captain Sensible had picked up a few garage rock 45s in his time.
Sensible Gray Cells is an attempt to give that passion an outlet, featuring the good Captain jamming hard alongside fellow Damned alumni Paul Gray.
New album 'Get Back Into The World' is out on on November 27th via the good folk at Damaged Goods Records, and it's a blistering homage to those glorious days of broken down fuzz pedals, two note riffs, and barbed adolescent anger.
Ahead of this, Captain Sensible picked out his must-hear garage rock nuggets...
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The Lollipop Shoppe - 'Who'll Read The Will'
From the same album as the manic ‘You Must Be A Witch’, this one is amazingly even more over the top.
The singer just about keeping it under control until the final ad libs where it degenerates in a flurry of ‘feeling alright nows’. Yeah, that’s for sure! There’s plenty of fuzz going on here too, but this time it’s on the bass while the guitar is clean and scratchy. Well, until the solo which could probably strip paint.
It all goes at a fair old tempo too and the old expression ‘they don’t write ‘em like that anymore’ has never been more appropriate than with ‘Who’ll Read The Will’.
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The Pretty Things - 'Defecting Grey'
In a long long career the Pretty Things made a fair few albums but there’s not a duffer amongst them. Starting out playing raunchy R&B they went through various changes and progressions inventing the concept album along the way with the sensational ‘S.F. Sorrow’.
‘Defecting Grey’ is as eccentric a slab of psych as you’re ever likely to hear, lurching from a quirky nursery rhyme into blistering fuzz via sudden unexpected time changes which was undoubtedly far too radical for any radio producers so never became the hit it so richly deserved to be.
Much as I loathe the show I would even watch an episode of Strictly Come Dancing if a couple chose ‘Defecting Grey’ to dance to…now THAT would be fun!
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Crushed Butler - 'My Son's Alive'
If anyone deserves the accolade of godfather to UK punk it should go to Jesse Hector.
Listen to the glorious racket going on in this one from ’69, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in 1977. By then Jesse was fronting the Hammersmith Gorillas who also kicked a considerable amount of ass in their primitive and frenetic way.
I got to see the band a few times too, came out with ringing ears, drenched in sweat… bloody marvellous!
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The Left Banke - 'Evening Gown'
You may find this hard to believe but I occasionally get asked by new bands for advice on how to break through. I usually tell them to do something different, whatever everyone else is doing, avoid that for a start, which is precisely what the Left Banke did back in the 60s.
While all their contemporaries were going mainly for fuzz and wah guitar based sounds these groovers were driven by harpsichord riffs, and surprisingly enough it actually works, as can be heard here. Baroque garage, I can’t think of many others that went down that route which makes the Left Banke pretty unique.
And a quick admission to end with, The Damned were listening to this band almost non-stop whilst recording the ‘Strawberries’ album.
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The Avengers - 'Be A Caveman'
You’d be lynched by the PC brigade if you wrote a similar song in this day and age, but these massively misogynistic lyrics about pulling girls by the hair and holding them tighter than a grizzly bear were surely meant tongue in cheek style? Partial to the odd wind up I cheekily slip this one in the set when DJing sometimes, eager to see if anyone twigs what the singer’s rabbiting on about - but sadly nobody has reacted to it so far.
I’ll tell you what though, find the right person and ‘Be A Caveman’ is guaranteed to cause outrage, just don’t say I put you up to it, thanks.
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The Electric Prunes - 'Get Me To The World On Time'
Psychedelia was never produced and packaged better than with the Prunes. All the fuzz and psych noises are absolutely spot on (check out the guitars!) and in this song James Lowe really lives the lyric crying out “my pulse is beating faster and I’m heading for disaster, here I go.. higher HIGHER!” The song breaks down into a Bo Diddley section halfway through too - magnificent stuff.
The Damned and Prunes got on great when playing a festival together a couple of decades or so ago. Great people, great band!
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The Troggs - 'Wild Thing'
The Troggs had the knack for writing insanely catchy three chord anthems, this neanderthal stomp with its out of tune ocarina solo really caught my attention in the midst of Top Of The Pops - more typical mainstream fare.
I mean, as much as I liked the Beatles and Stones they couldn't complete with Reg Presley for unbridled sleaze and perviness. And Reg donated most of his royalties to researching crop circles and aliens too. Top man!
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'Get Back Into The World' will be released on November 27th - order it HERE.
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